By Journeyman

The worst of this winter’s exceptional storms has now passed and we here in the Styx are enjoying a great sense of relief. Our house booms and whistles with it’s unique set of poltergeists and banshees when under the wind’s assault, and all the growing tips are stripped from the pine trees, together with catkins, that clog up the drains and send the water where it’s not wanted, but mercifully nowhere near the house. The Christmas rhododendron is in flower and has escaped the frost, as they have been few and far between in this very mild winter.

My perambulations through back numbers of ME magazine have renewed my irritation with modern computer generated drawings. I have been using some of these recently and they bear very poor comparison with their hand-drawn counterparts of the past. The massive capabilities of computers has misled those who produce these drawings into believing that more makes for more, rather than the old adage of Mies van de Rohe that “less is more.” Thus we have three dimensional projections with ‘ghosted’ internal components, some in different colours in a vain attempt to makes things clearer, that merely confuse and cloud the image. Also, and this is my biggest bugbear, the dimension indicator lines are as thick as the component outlines AND come into contact with the part shown. The result of this is an amorphous mass of lines, with the outline lurking somewhere in the middle. I go over everything with a fine Tipex marker to ‘release’ the part from it’s cats cradle of surrounding lines. The part then immediately becomes clear.

Compare all this with the drawings of the likes of LBSC or Edgar T. Westbury. Setting aside the question of accuracy, the dimensions and shape of any given item is immediately and quickly obvious without the need for prolonged scrutiny or modification.  The dimension indicator lines are fainter, so that even if they touch the item’s outline, they do not confuse. I’m sure it’s great fun using a computer to produce drawings, but as with so many things, a bigger kit of tools does not always make for better results. So to all those who sell drawings made the modern way, PLEASE make them clearer! I notice that the drawings in Doug Hewson’s articles are an example of the trend in the right direction - better, but still not as good as in days of yore!  Perhaps this comes down to differences in the programmes that people use, but that does not make these shortcomings acceptable. One other thing, please write all dimension numerals horizontally, that can’t be difficult.

Interim projects

One of the drawbacks of our present time of uncertainty is the difficulty of working on big projects. In the initial surge of activity generated by the decision to move, I decided that it would be a bad idea to start painting Boxhill and so I packed it up with all parts in their correct left/right orientations. Since then things have settled down and so a paint shop has been set up, ‘B’ has been unpacked and the work has begun.

I also like making attachments for the lathe and these short term projects are ideal as being jobs I can do while waiting for paint to dry and cure, and also as part of my continuing programme of education, my ‘journyman’s journey’. The first one is a spherical turning tool to a kit design. They come as  a complete package of drawings and materials and instructions which should make things easy. However, I have a lot of difficulty with the instructions, something that many model engineering constructional series and articles have in common. Surely it is not beyond the wit of  man and women to write clear, concise directions, set out in a logical, headed order that take you step by step to a successful conclusion, as indeed was the habit of LBSC, Edgar T. Westbury and W.J.Hughes. The habit of writing a continuous piece of prose with no item subheadings was rife throughout Martin Evans’ constructional series for Boxhill and I have noticed it in many articles I have read over many years. The job gets done, but not having to interpret model engineering ‘chinglese’ would make the whole experience so much more pleasurable.

The current project is a knurling tool based on the Marlco design, also a kit, a tool much advertised in ME many years ago. Here, mercifully there are no instructions to follow which has, surprisingly, made the job much easier, no garbled text to interpret ! I chose it to replace the crummy one I bought off a stall at an exhibition, confirming the adage that you get what you pay for.

During the process of starting to dispose of all my blacksmithing gear I have come to realise how very strongly attached you become to your tools and equipment and the space you create in which to use them for all those cherished projects. For me the job for which each tool was made is still clear, be it for gate making, a set of railings, or a particular fire poker, and seeing it ‘walk’ out of the door is not easy, even for money. You realise it’s a past that cannot be recaptured however meaningful it was and that time has moved on in an alarming way. It’s no surprise that so many men leave their widows a workshop disposal headache, they can’t bear to part with anything, right up to the bitter end !

I mentioned in Styx 17 that we are moving. Well, we’re not!. We looked at two or three places, one of which we really liked and would have enabled me to have the workshop in the house, but nowhere offered safe, dry shed space for boiler making and those occasional fabrication jobs where hammering and welding won’t upset the neighbours. So, instead, No.1 The Styx is going to receive some t.l.c. to make it more storm proof, and a face lift, everything has become rather shabby and it will cost far less than moving! Meanwhile the great clear-out will continue leaving us free from all that when eventually we do leave here. If anyone is looking for blacksmithing equipment email me here and ask for a list to be emailed to you. All the hand tools have already gone bar a few hammers.

The running season starts soon, so I must find time to do loco checks to avoid failures on the first day out.